Sunday, September 07, 2008

TIFF 2008: Day 4

Joheunnom nabbeunnom isanghannom / The Good The Bad The Weird (Ji-woon Kim, 2008, Korea)
Where the action of Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly played out against a backdrop of the U.S. Civil War, the occupation of Korea/Manchuria by the Japanese integrates far more in Ji-woon Kim's The Good The Bad The Weird. Apart from the title and the film's finale, TGTBTW seems more indebted to modern filmmakers such as Takashi Miike and Robert Rodriguez than Sergio Leone.

TGTBTW stars Kang-ho Song as Yoon Tae-Goo, The Weird. This outlaw looks like he's straight out of the Korean conflict with his ubiquitous earflap hat. He's the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, and the chaotic center around which the film's narrative revolves. He's got a gang of ragamuffins, the Japanese Army, a talented bounty hunter, and a black-clad baddie all after him and a pilfered map of Manchuria. The latter players are The Good (Woo-sung Jung) and The Bad (Byung-hun Lee).

While much of the film appears to take place in “The Old East,” the presence of seemingly anachronistic Jeeps and motorcycles leave many viewers scratching their heads. Others will just kick back and enjoy the ride which includes a bevy of gunslinging set pieces. The relationship between The Good and The Weird feels more akin to that of Harmonica and Cheyenne in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, especially as they're more remote and reserved in comparison to Tuco from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Raucous, predictable and entertaining, TGTBTW is a fun ride.

Deadgirl (Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel, 2008, USA)
Sex with an attractive girl with no emotional strings attached. That sounds like a lot of guys' dream. If that hot girl was actually more room temperature and found bound in the basement of a mental hospital, this might present a problem to some dudes...but not all. The fact that she's actually a zombie might further cull her potential suitors down to a select group. Luckily, JT (Noah Segan) has no bones about getting a boner for the living dead when they've got a good body and won't talk back. He's all about porking Deadgirl (Jenny Spain) in any orifice she has, with the exception of her hungry, gnashing mouth. His good friend Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez), however, has a few problems with JT's newfound passion. Rickie's got his dick in his heart over JoAnne Skinner (Candice Accola), his childhood crush that he “lost to puberty” (and a dumb jock boyfriend).

An interesting examination of classism and cliques in high school as well as when the boundaries around necrophilia get a little blurry, Deadgirl is filled with unpleasant moments that will polarize audiences; either utterly repulsing them or making them laugh with pleasant discomfort. Once the story gets going, it's fairly predictable (some see the conclusion coming from miles away) but it's still highly enjoyable to see it play out, especially after a wonderfully creepy opening. Shiloh Fernandez can be fairly grating (no matter how much he may look like Joaquin Phoenix) but Noah Segan picks up the acting slack with his terrific turn as lovable scamp JT. Sick, twisted, and delightful.

Plastic City / Dangkou (Nelson Yu Lik-wai, 2008, Brazil)
Wow this movie is bad. It starts out promising with Anthony Wong as Yuda, an up-and-coming import/export man who has all the right connections and an ambitious adopted son, Kirin (Joe Odagiri). It looks as if the movie might start to follow a kind of Godfather path with Yuda being sold down the river by his political affiliates in order to favor a New Wave gangster who's less respected among the Sao Paolo community but more efficient in paying graft. Yeah, that might have been a good movie... but that's not in the cards for Plastic City.

Yado gets carted off to jail and Kirin's left to run the family business for a while. This would have been a good opportunity to give the film more of a “heroic bloodshed” feel by adopting some A Better Tomorrow tropes. No, again that might have made the film interesting. Instead, it'd be better to never find out what's motivating these characters and to just make the film look interesting rather than be interesting. Had the entire movie been the few minutes of experimental digital work that director Nelson Yu Lik-wai employs scattershot, it would have been effective. As it stands, the narrative feels as if someone lost a few pages out of the script (say one page for every eight) and no one bothered to worry about it. The show must go on.

The movie takes as many twists and turns as the Amazon and makes about as much sense as the ponderous finale about “all things return to the river.” It's interesting when it's experimental but sucks when it's a narrative. If you want to be cool, pretend you understand it and talk loudly about it at your next hipster party.

1 comment:

Michael Guillen said...

I found it interesting that on the first page of the first issue of TIFF's Screen Daily, the producers of Plastic City asked reviewers not to catch the film at TIFF08 because it's about to undergo a drastic re-edit, based upon response from Venice. Don't you think a film should be done before it's paraded before the press?

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